This is a common phenomenon. Once you decide you are going to sell your horse because – well, because of any number of reasons – the horse starts going the best they have ever been?
We have all seen it – the jumper who isn’t keen on jumping over 1.1m is now cruising over the 1.2m courses. Or the dressage horse who just starts doing their job without tension. And of course, as soon as that ad hits the internet, the horse than never nickers to you will start. I promise. And you hear the owner saying, “well, maybe I should just keep it.” – well, maybe….. but what is this phenomenon? Here are my theories…..
1. You take the pressure off the performance and the horse feels a sense of relief and starts to try harder. Or just is able to do things more easily, like a schoolmaster rather than pushing for more all the time.
2. You distance yourself psychologically from the horse because you are going to part ways, and as a result I think we put less pressure on them to please us, therefore back off and accept them for what they are. Making them happier and making us happier too.
3. Those horses know when this gig might be over and they try harder …. or resist less?
4. The horse notices you are distancing themselves and like that old boyfriend who you were not quite ready to break up with, they cling onto you to hopefully make you love them again.
5. Since the horse notices the decrease in pressure and therefore the chance of being sold is increased, they throw you the odd amazing thing in there – just to keep you wondering if you should sell it! I know it too well!!! Like Vinny throwing in a few steps of nice passage last week from the smallest half halt, I could see his knees!!! From the horse that is for sale because I am not so sure he will do GP – oh you little munchkin!
So for now the horse stays for sale, but in the back of your mind you hope, just a little bit, that maybe no one wants it and you can keep him for a little while longer. Because we do love them, right?! And my kids are still baffled at why we sell the horse but not the dog (because the dog is not that well trained!) 🙂